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Guy in a fez with a monkey

Brandon Hodge's page

Contributor. RPG Superstar 2013 Star Voter. Pathfinder Society Member. 826 posts (892 including aliases). No reviews. No lists. No wishlists. 1 Pathfinder Society character. 1 alias.

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Well, folks, you're in luck! Since Charlie Bell's at PaizoCon keeping the Black Rock wiped clean of green blood at Daigle and I's annual event (which I am sadly missing), I'm going to step in here and show you what YOU might be missing if you haven't yet downloaded Wayfinder #11.

Charlie and Damien McGurell's article, "The Imperial Army of Her Infernal Majestrix," shows you a little glimpse of what you might expect from Armies of Golarion should we ever convince the powers-that-be to make it a reality: a smorgasbord of Chelish units and diabolical squads (9 total!) for the UC mass combat rules, and, most exciting for me, TWO NEW TROOP STATBLOCKS: the Chelish Infantry Troop (CR 10) and the Lemure Mob (CR 11).

I know who I'll be hoping gets assigned to freelance on AoG if it happens!


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Congrats to Mr. Stinson on a fantastic first foray as an independent RPG publisher! This one really shows off some substantial design chops from front to back. Great work, Matthew, and you've set your own bar high for future projects!!!


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My home campaign from which the troop subtype was adapted is heavy on PC-versus-troops engagement. Or, rather, the flexibility of the system allows for PCs to interact on a larger battlefield with no change to their statblocks, which was the whole point. We shift rounds between the larger troop-vs-troop action of the battlefield and PC-vs-troops/leaders in in-between rounds. It works fantastically.

Now if only you had a book full of troop statblocks...


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doc the grey wrote:
So quick aside, am I the only one who's a little sad to not see the spirit planchettes reprinted here for the spiritualism section?

No, you aren't the only one a little saddened over that omission, especially considering I not only wrote the Spiritualism chapter, but that planchettes are my specialty. They were set for inclusion, but they're a high-wordcount magic item statblock, so I totally get how they'd be an easy cut in development. The trade-off is that great piece of art with Imrijka rockin' a talking board, though!


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Hey gang!

PoV, my research for the book indicated what DaemonAngel already stated--that some Mark Vs made landfall in 1918, and thus were fair game for inclusion. Back when the adventure debuted, I was cocked-and-loaded to tackle these detailed specifics in the event I got entangled in any similar historical questions/debates (like my previous one where I was called out for the Western-like architecture of the Orthodox cathedral, and submitted the exact Russian church, in-the-same-region, on which the RMD cathedral was based to show I *did* know exactly what I was doing) but, unfortunately, we've added a toddler to the family since the adventure's debut, and half a dozen backup drives, and I'll be hard-pressed to dig up those references and notes. But they are around here somewhere if you want to hear what historical sources I was working from for the included elements. It just might take me some time to find and post.

Getting those historical facts straight was very important to me in the writing of this adventure, and I didn't leave many holes in the boat, as it were. I didn't want any potential inaccuracies to be a distraction to WWI history buffs who might read or play in the adventure, and was very, very careful with my research and inclusions of stuff like this, even as contradictory as some primary source material can be.


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DeciusNero wrote:
How about the Order of the Palatine Eye? Is the info more-or-less a reprint from Carrion Crown?

Less. As author of both, I can tell you that the contents here summarize what you've seen while adding a lot a new angles and aspects, including new exclusive abilities for brethren and rules for PC membership you've never seen. And what Irnk said, above. ;-)


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C'mon, folks--35 posts and no one's brought up Synthesist Summoner threads!!! ;-)


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Manuelexar wrote:
The druid in my party transformed himself in a huge air elemental right before the trenches (and after the mortar troops shoot then (they set off a mine) he decided to use his whirlwind ability to suck up the troops... and we stopped to play in that moment. are the troops affected by this ability?

Well now, that *is* a tricky one.

Whirlwinds can only affect creatures one or more size category smaller than itself, and while the troop takes up the space of a gargantuan creature, its composite nature means it only has a true size category of medium.

So the troop is definitely affected. And with the size of a Huge air elemental (50 ft) there's more than enough room to fit all the composite creatures if that were called into question. So give the troop its save as normal against the damage and the suspension effect (it makes its saves on a 8+, so it's in good shape) and run with it. And don't forget that even if immobilized due to the suspension, the troops still get actions and attacks (ouch!) that they're likely to focus on their tormentor. And that grenade volley is a move action, sooooo... =-)

Great visual!


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As WB says, I'm pretty sure every single vril thing in the book is from my pen, but I'm also particularly proud of a couple of other contributions in the spell chapter: skittering vermin and voracious vermin, not the least because it allowed me to finally use the word "varmint" in an RPG product.

And as soon as they were both published, I promptly asked my GM if my character could research them and add them to my spell list.

Freelancing does have its benefits. =-)


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Evil Midnight Lurker wrote:
Why are the two vermin spells on the vril spell list? They don't seem to share any thematics, and they aren't even transmutations as all other vril magic seems to be.

I *bet* I know why without even looking.

My turnover included a few spells in addition to the vril-themed selections, and two of them, skittering vermin and voracious vermin, made the cut for inclusion in the book. While they weren't intended as vril spells, and they shouldn't be on that list, looks like they crept in there during development, likely due to an erroneous-but-understandable assumption that since they came out of a document that was 95% vril-related, they were intended as vril.

So, strike those two from the list. Every vril spell has vril in the spell name.

ANOTHER LIST CORRECTION: There are no witch vril spells, and vril refraction is erroneously listed as a witch spell on that list, although it is only sorcerer/wizard, as a glimpse at the spell itself reveals. Looks like compounded error from those vermin spells, which are on the witch spell list.


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doc the grey wrote:
Does this add to or expand upon the vril technology laid out in sunken empires?

Doc, Deep Magic adds to the vril of Sunken Empires in a BIG way. Rather than focusing on items, however, it turns the lens to the wielders and channelers of vril, with several archetypes, feats, bloodlines, and a host of accompanying spells that allow casters to transmute the arcane energy of 'modern' spells into the raw, primordial force known as vril. Assuming everything made it in (waiting on my copy, too!), then there's also a sidebar addressing how vril wielders can recharge the vril batteries and items from Sunken Empires.


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Magnuskn, when you get it all outlined, please post the results in my Alternative Overlays for Rasputin Must Die thread!


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I'm Hiding In Your Closet wrote:
Victor Zajic wrote:
An Aboleth's strengths are not geared towards straight combat. Throw one randomly into the combat ring and it's not going to shine. Enter a city where one has been living in the sewers for the past 5 years it's goingo to be a much different story.

Ahem. Or the past 10,000 years, at least.


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necronus wrote:
I have re-read all of my previous points, and they were confrontational in the sense I was saying there was a problem...
necronus wrote:
I disagree, and wrote up the examples of bruised egos and glad-handing, however, pointing out peoples faults, instead of their content would be vitriolic; and, adding malice has no benefits to productive discussions.

Let me lay it out for you nice and simple, Necronus. If you were interested in a positive, interactive discourse and answers to your questions, you might have started by not calling those haunt-using freelancers involved in this thread "lazy," then sticking by that attack. That does indeed cross into vitriolic territory, and ceases to criticize the mechanic you have a problem with in favor of personal mischaracterizations. You *might* have meant to refer to the rules mechanic itself, and not the writers personally, but when given the chance to clarify, you stuck with it. It's kind of like when that guy last week said he thought Paizo writers were on drugs. I think my response there is particularly fitting here, as well. More flies with honey, and all that.

necronus wrote:
I could not sense any sarcasm from my previous posts, so I am thinking that has to do with the perspective of the reader, of which I apologize.

That's because there *was* no sarcasm. It was a direct insult, particularly for those of us who take on these assignments for pretty meager pay at the expense of months of time with our families and personal lives so we can contribute a little game content to the world. Remember that all of us go through the exact same complicated thought process to evaluate the inclusion of haunts that Jim Groves outlined in his post, so I hope he shed some light on freelancers' motivations outside of "laziness." There are myriad reasons writers resort to using an approved rules mechanic that the majority does not seem to have a problem with, and a LOT of hard work, time, dedication, and consideration that goes into writing adventures. And you recognize that, saying "some of the histories, stories, and descriptions of haunts I have read were incredibly well written and worthy of praise," not to mention your acknowledgement of Jim's explanations given above. So you get it. But also know that apologizing for how someone was insulted by an insult you uttered is not an apology.

Necronus, the tenor of these boards over the last year has unfortunately taken a nosedive in the manners department, and this sort of thing is a prime example of why more and more freelancers are posting less and less often. If we're going to continue interacting, we're going to do it with reasonable folks who don't resort to insulting characterizations right out of the gate. I *know* you are a reasonable guy because I can read your otherwise well-thought-out responses. So please keep it clean, and please watch the personal attacks.


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necronus wrote:
"lazy writing."

I hope the "lazy" author of Haunting of Harrowstone, Michael Kortes, was able to pull himself off the couch long enough to pick up the Gold Ennie we won for that adventure.


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As the only Paizo writer (excluding staff) whose work was specifically called out in the thread as an example of drug-induced writing, I'll give you a minute of my time to share what I thought about it.

Though I've never used drugs, I was not necessarily offended. I did think your use of an attention-grabbing headline was boorish, immature, and in poor taste. If your goals were *truly* to get the feedback you claim you were after, and not to rabble-rouse, you failed. Why? Because if you had started a thread titled more softly, like "Paizo Put Their Modern Chocolate in My Fantasy Peanut Butter" or "Please Help Me Resolve Non-Traditional AP Elements," then you are way, way more likely to have not only gotten the feedback from the community you say you were seeking, but more likely to lure those hard-working, apparently drug-addled freelancers to comment on the topic with worthwhile feedback.

But you didn't. You used a contentious headline and boorish insinuations to get attention, and it properly backfired. Which is why you didn't see me, or any other Paizo freelancers partially responsible for those non-traditional elements, taking part in the discourse. You might have had me, for example, inform you that Rasputin Must Die! has proven to be one of Paizo's most popular and fastest-selling AP chapters, with a slew of incredible reviews and amazing feedback that I never could have predicted when I took the assignment. That should tell you something as to how well the genre-pushing elements are accepted by the greater Paizo community. Maybe I'd have shared some of my inspirations and thoughts on crossing genres in a fantasy game, particularly since my home game is staunchly-traditional. I might have even suggested you check out the "Alternate Fantasy Overlays" thread I started here on the boards to modify the adventure into more of a fantasy environment for groups uncomfortable with the modern setting--showing GMs how, with only a few simple shifts, they could substitute WWI-era Earth and Rasputin for the world of Greyhawk and Iuz.

I might have been nice, or gracious, or helpful, or generally friendly, because that's the kind of guy I am in this community. But instead, I browsed your post and some responses, figured your words were probably an accurate reflection of your character, and got on with my day without thinking twice about it. Ultimately, that might be your loss. Maybe not.

To kinda-quote Sean Reynolds, who I'll miss dearly around these parts, on posting maturely:

"Is your attitude more likely to get someone to respond positively, or less likely?"

In this case, it was less likely. Way less likely. And "sorry you took offense at my insulting comments" before telling the offended to evaluate themselves isn't all that redeeming, either. Oh, the irony. But you seem like a reasonable sort, and I hope you see why you got the response you did, and can move forward as a productive, positive member of our community. Because we could use all the help these days in an increasingly negative environment around here.


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Folks--another reminder. This forum is for the discussion of haunts as they pertain to their use in the Carrion Crown adventure path. Not PFS, and not Rite Publishing products. Please be considerate of further threadjacking by moving those aspects of the conversation either back to the PFS forums, or to the respective product pages for the oft-mentioned publications. Gamer-printer, if you "can't attest other publishers use of haunts," then perhaps you should stop and familiarize yourself with Paizo's haunts (specifically those in CC), particularly since they are the focus of this thread. How else are you to know that the products you keep promoting present the right solutions to the posed problems? =-) You do good work, buddy!


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thrikreed wrote:
This is spoken like someone that has never sat at a table under an unreasonable game master or played in a living campaign like Pathfinder Society for any significant amount of time...
thrikreed wrote:
I disagree and I think many more people than you suspect do... but because of dismissive statements like 'I fixed it by doing this' or 'It works for me' or 'I'm going to play it my way and you play it yours' or 'it's just a game suck it up' or 'if you don't like it don't play' or (my new favorite) 'Who made you an authority'. We'll come back to that last one here in a bit... but I will say that these Haunt threads were pointed out to me.

This haunt thread was pointed out to you because it offers proposed solutions that you were seeking, not because your criticism was in the wrong place. There's a reason responses like "I fixed it by doing this" and others are valid here where they may not be valid on other areas of the messageboard, Thrikreed. You brought your complaints and the root cause for them out of the PFS threads and into the AP threads, and out here, suggested fixes for home GMs, whether they come from freelancers, other GMs, 3PP material suggestions, or just any interested party with a good idea, are valid.

This thread was created to aid GMs running the Carrion Crown AP and, in particular, Haunting or Harrowstone and its associated haunts. While that's not to say your initial critique of haunts doesn't make some solid points or is out of place here, when you guys steer off course with the root of your conflict being about acceptable PFS allowance for GM fixes, which is a HUGE percentage of the source of your complaint, you're off-topic. And as the thread's also labeled "DMs ONLY," it's not exactly the proper forum to air player grievances, either. I would kindly suggest that those aspects of the conversation be brought back to the PFS boards or moved to respective product pages. Because until/unless Carrion Crown is sanctioned for PFS play, criticisms based on "we can't fix it because the rules say so" are off-target, and off-topic.

So please keep debating the merits or lack thereof of haunts and potential fixes, but with the new understanding, lets please move the conversation beyond the restrictions of PFS-allowable rules changes and throw that conversation back to the thread that IS discussing it, because that isn't going to help anyone coming here to look for help with haunts.

(I'll also note that that PFS thread's responses to haunts are overwhelmingly positive/neutral, with less than a half-dozen true detractors among 100 posts. Most are in the "I like haunts" camp, almost all the rest are in the middling "when well done, haunts are OK" camp, noting some occasional problems when they aren't used right, and only a small percentage (about 4 posters) falls into the "I hate these things they are too problem-plagued" mode of thinking. I think that mix of public opinion has been pretty consistent on this thread as well. Which, along with my home experience, makes me feel pretty confident in the mechanic and the public's perception and use of it.)

Moving forward: You've been offered a solution for fixing PC information on haunts with Knowledge checks, a system of which has since found print in 3PP products. You've noted a lack of backstory elements with the response that Haunting of Harrowstone has backstory elements for the important haunts, and the backmatter article's haunts doesn't have extensive backstories because they were meant for GMs to work their own histories for them in home campaigns. We all recognize the problems with inflicting the suicide haunt on PCs (though it does not appear in Carrion Crown or HoH), so let's get past that.

What non-PFS-related criticisms have not been addressed? Wonky 'screw-you' creation tactics with nasty GMs potentially jury-rigging the CR system? Initiative matters forcing haunts on PCs with no chance to otherwise react? Other issues? What would you propose be done to solve these perceived shortcomings?

If everyone continues to play nice, I'll continue to help.


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Tangent101 answers the point as I would have--the troop's "dispersal" doesn't necessarily mean "destroyed to the man." In that line of thinking, and depending on what you're up for as a GM, you might dictate that the troop "disperses" into 1d4+2 individual Russian soldiers. ;-)



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Just a point of clarification as I otherwise sidestep this pothole of vitriol: I am not the creator of the haunt mechanic. The first appearance of the haunts (and your hated suicide haunt) was in The Skinsaw Murders, which was written during the 3.5 era. The rules were refined for the Gamemastery Guide, and given that I spend just about every spare minute researching historical hauntings and séance history, Paizo asked me to write the haunts article for Haunting of Harrowstone.

Now, I am the guy responsible for trying to fix some of your concerns. I introduced the rapping spirit rules in that article to give PCs at least some means of communicating with haunts and learning the methods of their destruction. The Knowledge check rules you stated above were cut from the published version of the HoH article, so I put them here on the boards for the community to use as they see fit, along with some other refinements that are posted upthread here. It's my hope that I'm given another crack at plugging some of those holes in an official rules format. We'll see.

So obviously I recognize that the mechanic has some issues, though I'm not willing to subscribe to most of your points of breakdown. The point of the HoH article, since it wasn't immediately obvious to you, was to provide basic haunt statbocks of various CRs that could be customized for home campaigns. That's when haunts work best--when their backstories are crafted and customized for your gaming table and weaved into the stories you're trying to tell. The point of the HoH article was to provide the mechanics and leave the intimate backstories open for GMs to work into their own campaigns. Other sources, like the fantastic Rite Publishing series, did that backstory work for you and addressed two of your main complaints by also adding Knowledge checks, but you've seen fit to dismiss those as products you would "avoid buying." Way to play, dude.

I've used haunts for years to great effect at the game table, but maybe that's because I take special care with them. And I can't account for how other GMs run them or use them or how other gaming tables react to them. But they work for me and my people. Looking at the thread that got you here, they obviously work for lots of other folks as well, despite their perceived shortcomings. If they don't work for you as a GM, fix them or design something else. If they don't work for you as a player, let your GM know. If it's a PFS thing, avoid scenarios with them if that's your beef. If your complaint is that they're overused in PFS, I'm afraid I can't help you and that's a topic of conversation for a different thread and different people, which you seem to have already found. Beyond that, while we appreciate your enthusiasm, please be a little nicer on these boards and dial back the spite a bit. We're all intelligent folks here trying to have a good time, and it's just a game.


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Carter Lockhart wrote:
That sounds really cool Brandon, thanks for posting that. The control mechanic sounds interesting as well, I might thread that into my game when they reach that point. Anything more to share on that area?

OK, but with the caveat that I am not really sure how well these mechanics gel with the published document--particularly as it pertains to the palace traps, so I can't promise you'll have seamless integration (particularly with Xin-triggered traps). To make it work, you should be able to just assume every portal in the palace is locked, and stairs as shown on the map don't exist until a passed control check makes them grow.

James and I chatted about these before publication. Mostly, this was judged to be a super-cool atmospheric addition, but ultimately just one more thing for GMs to have to keep track of in an already complicated high-level module. It was the right call.

Control Checks
Short of physical damage, palace doors can only be opened in one of two ways: by dominant mental effort, or by confusing the palace into allowing ingress. Particularly strong-willed characters can use a move action to force a palace doorway open or closed based on the result of a control check against DC 35, rolling 1d20 + character level + character Int modifier. If two or more creatures vie for control of a doorway, the rolls are opposed. If the check succeeds, the door’s crystal membrane parts to allow entry, and regrows shut in 1d6 rounds. The magical doors can also be tricked open by characters able to disarm magical traps, with characters substituting a Disable Device check in place of their Control Check, with a successful check allowing the character to coax the portal into opening. A PC equipped with the Sihedron gains a +4 bonus to all Control checks.

Using Control Checks to Oppose Traps:
Trap-like defenses are undetectable until triggered, at which point they manifest at initiative rank 20 in a surprise round. Characters in the trap's area can attempt to notice it at the start of this surprise round by making the trap's Perception DC. Successful detection prevents the PC from being caught flat-footed by the trap. On the surprise round before the trap manifests, a successful Control check (see above) equal to the Disable Device DC placates the palace's aggression and prevents the trap from triggering. PCs capable of disarming magical traps can also make a Disable Device check during this surprise round to disrupt the trap's formation.


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As promised--the final heave-and-collapse of Xin's crystal palace from one of my drafts. Not official, of course, but might be a fun addendum.

One note, though. There's an important element in here that didn't make the final adventure that's potentially confusing. Originally, the PCs had to make "Control Checks" to open the palace's doors, close entrances, and make crystal stairways "grow" down so they could be used. In keeping with my established theme that Azlanti avoid *touching* things if they can help it, I liked the idea of no door knobs or anything--if Xin wanted to get somewhere, he'd just think about an entrance opening up in the appropriate section of the wall and the crystal would respond, or a stairway would grow up or down to get him where he wanted to go. Likewise, powerful PCs could try to exert their mental influence on the palace to get it to do what *they* wanted instead of Xin, and this could not only open/close passages and doorways, but even help them shut down some of the traps if they made a good Perception check and acted quickly, etc. Think of this as the same sort of control system used for the sphere of annihilation, and there were some circumstances where they could battle for control of the palace with Xin's ghost for key entrances he didn't want them in, though it was mostly a cool way to open doors and find staircases, though it could also get characters in trouble when things "regrew" to close behind them, etc. Part of that "Control Check" system is still in here, so this may have limited usefulness in absence of that system, becoming more of a "screw you guys" just-deal-damage party-pooper than an interactive we-can-save-ourselves-with-the-power-of-our-minds event:

The Dying Palace (CR 14)

With the destruction of the Clockwork Reliquary, the palace rings out in a mournful cry, and its crystal form—so intrinsically tied to the life of Xin, begins cracking and crumbling, threatening to bury all within.

The Clockwork Reliquary's defeat signals the last desperate measure of Xin's palace to destroy those that have laid its master low, and it strikes out violently in its death throes. Its crystal walls begin to crumble beneath the weary party's feet, threatening to crush them under its dying weight or bury them beneath its sharp shards.

One round after the Clockwork Reliquary's defeat, the palace begins disintegrating. Characters have only 5 rounds to escape the palace, though they do not have to reach the front entrance to do it, as the cracking palace will soon open an exit of its own. Tremors rock the palace, and PCs must make a DC 20 Reflex save each round or fall prone. Crystal shards and slivers lash out blindly as the party flees, and PCs take 4d6 points of damage each round from the jagged shards (Reflex DC 20 for half). But while the palace still lives, PCs can attempt a DC 35 Control Check [1d20 + character level + character Int modifier] as part of their move actions to stabilize it locally, and PCs who succeed avoid damage entirely, though this does not halt the quaking effects.

After 5 rounds, the light of the outside world appears through large cracks in the palace walls, offering PCs a chance to escape. At this level, the PCs are 170 feet high, and can either jump to the ground below (suffering 17d6 damage) or fly. PCs who fail to escape are caught in the collapsing palace 1 round later, and take 10d6 points of damage, or half that amount if they make a DC 25 Reflex save. They are subsequently buried (Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook 415) in the rubble of the dead palace, and the quakes continue as the island slowly sinks over the next 10 minutes into the stormy sea.

Treasure: As PCs recover from the disaster of the collapsing tower, allow them to make a DC 25 Perception check to spy a fist-sized chunk of the palace, glowing with the light of inner glyphs. This is the last living shard of Xin's palace, and functions as an instant fortress, though it make gain additional abilities and sentience over time.


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I'm going to go the other way here. I wouldn't change a thing. At *most* I might give the player an extra die of damage, perhaps a static bonus (add Str modifier again?), or *maybe* the +50% damage. At most, and only if I felt they really resented the temporary uselessness of earned abilities.

The reasons:

Making the character that much more effective against the admittedly dangerous troops destroys their effectiveness--not only as a combatant, mind you--but in the role they are really meant to play in the module: a deterrent and a steering mechanism once PCs enter the prison.

The trenches aren't meant to be "cleared out" like a dungeon full of kobolds. The presence of the troops, and the ever-roaming searchlights, are meant to be a dangerous, looming threat that the PCs should really be trying to avoid as they seek to complete their goals and take the fight to Rasputin. If they are engaging in one boring firefight after the other (because that wholesale slaughter *will* become boring if your guys are able to hack the troops to pieces) rather than using their abilities to infiltrate the heart of Rasutin's camp and solve the mysteries of his location, then the adventure's horrific aspect and overall storyline become muted.

PCs should also learn fairly quickly that these troops are not acting entirely of their own volition, which raises some ethical questions if your fighter is hacking and cleaving his way through dozens of nosferatu-dominated men. They aren't exactly nice guys, mind you, but they're also not evil, bloodthirsty, demon-possessed murderers--they are soldiers following orders to protect their headquarters, and dominated to insure they follow those orders precisely and turn a blind eye to the supernatural horrors within the inner walls of the prison.To impress this on the group, maybe they should meet Dmitri sooner than later.

Also recall that the electrified barricade works both ways. For the most part, the soldiers stay stationed in the trenches unless otherwise noted in the adventure. Making a hack-and-slash slaughter around the camp's perimeter, new-found cleaving-prowess in hand, doesn't accomplish any of the adventure's goals, and, as noted above, removes the deterrent you as a GM are able to utilize while the troops survive, and that is if the PCs make a wrong move or make too big a show of things, those troops might decide to cross the fence after all. And the PCs shouldn't be inviting that.

I say leave it as is or make only a minor adjustment, let the PCs know just how dangerous those troops are, and encourage them to seek ways to *not* go on a troop-killing spree, and keep them as a looming threat that could open a floodgate of PC death if they aren't careful in their explorations. Just some thoughts for consideration!


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I kind of miss that mustache. Grew a handlebar in 6 weeks for the feature Food Network did on my candy shop--where fezzes are regular attire. =-)


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That's the way it's done, folks! As much as we writers try and anticipate every action and shoehorn stories into the GM's hands, reacting to elements like time management, PC interest, and general flow of the adventure episode make that a fantastic ending that rewards PCs for quick thinking, awards them a great final cinematic scene of what *would* have been if they'd failed, and sends everyone home happy. Well done, Dustin!


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Just leaving this here for now.


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So awesome, you guys--love hearing about how these games play out at the table! Kudos to all!

Joshua, there was originally an old Maine tradition I stumbled across in my research (brought over from the Netherlands, if I recall) that I don't think made it to the final print: the goose snatch. The villagers hang a greased goose upside down from a high branch, and everyone takes turns trying to jump up and snatch its head off. The winner gets to eat it at the feast. Of course, the villagers rig the game by placing diseased nails (treat as caltrops) in the grass when the PCs take their turn. Good times.

And Dustin--when I run into problems like this, PCs skipping areas wholesale, avoiding an important encounter, etc, I usually transplant the good stuff somewhere else. Maybe have a cultist encounter in the opening to the corn maze, for example. But in this case, like Joshua points out, the final encounter is difficult enough, so if they skipped something, the saved resources will likely help balance it out!


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Wizard uses Core rules to pay 1,000 gp per spell level to research arcane versions of cure spells. Worked for us.


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Rob wrapped this up all pretty nicely, but an additions from the author:

1. The heir to the Romanov line would actually be Alexei, not Anastasia. But, as the text shows, that's

not exactly Alexei, is it?

And in any case, the throne of importance to this story to which Anastasia is heir is Irrisen's throne, not Russia's. If you guys want to argue about Russia's complicated line of succession at your game table, go right ahead. I'd just keep an eye on Alexei as he licks his lips with a hungry look in his eyes, and if I were GM I'd be rolling Perception checks the minute someone uttered the name "Cyril" or any of Nicholas' male 2nd cousins. How'd their characters know that anyway? Legend lore? =-)

2. I was very aware of Rasputin's first recorded foray into St. Peterburg being 1903. To account for this, my original text stated that he had stopped there briefly in secret before his pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and performed a seance which the tsarina attended. As you can imagine, after a long adventure development and editing process, a few key important words to clarify and account for that little historical inconsistency worked their way out of the document. Like the succession issue, I can't possible imagine how this is going to affect the game or the story you're trying to tell.

I think that the adventure has gotten along this far in the public's discerning and hyper-critical eye with so few inaccuracies noted, especially considering the incredibly complicated story that we've woven into a fantasy adventure (some earlier "historical inaccuracy" claims didn't pan out as the critics hoped, particularly regarding some of the weapons included and their use in the war). I think it bodes fantastically well for the job we've done on this one, and I know both myself and Paizo busted our butts to make sure as few of these things sneaked into the final document, because neither myself nor Rob, Adam, or any other Paizo employee wanted to spend our days arguing over historical sticking points or worry about distracting educated readers to the point of frustration. So you found a couple of non-relevant inconsistencies. That's alright. A slip here or there was bound to happen, and I suppose how "glaring" they are is all in the eye of the beholder. Or maybe in the eye of the beholder's intimate grasp of obscure imperial succession law. Hahaha.

But rest assured, the topics are not only relatively obscure to even the most historically-minded, they aren't ultimately relevant to the story the players will be experiencing.


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I need to check and see what's on my list and on the way--I like the big floor pieces and have 7 sets on the way, so maybe some stuff to trade off. =-)


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I imagine after the spanking his Sooners got yesterday despite playing the worst Texas Longhorn team in recent memory, the Greg we all knew and loved will be but a shell of his former self: a hollow man wandering the desolate wastes of his own burned-out subconscious, absently carving practice cadavers with no joy or purpose.


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Tirisfal wrote:


Brandon! I saw you on tv! :D

They finally added your episode of Oddities to Netflix :)

Ha! That's awesome! Mona wrote me the other night and told me he'd finally watched it on Netflix, so good to hear it's getting out there. I actually had lunch with Evan and her husband here in Austin this past Sunday, and Mike and I are really good pals these days, each of us taking turns traveling to New York and Texas to scour the Earth together for crazy stuff. So being on the show was a really fortuitous meeting of great folks and good friends. Always a hoot!

TheLoneCleric wrote:
Brandon, push it to print! I'd love to see more about the Eye and their dealings in the Inner Sea. Hell, I'd LOVE a oooh!
Mark Moreland wrote:
Patience, however, brings enlightenment.

Indeeeeed. ;-)


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Mind you that never made it to print, so it isn't official.

"Most Worthy" is always the prefix in recognition between members of the Third Throne, and "Prince" is sometimes the suffix if the title can be descriptive (like Angelic, Archangelic, Authoritative, and Virtuous), but not if the title stands alone (as Principal, Dominion, and all the First Throne stations do).

Beyond the Third Throne, "Most Highly Esteemed" becomes the prefix for the Second Throne members, followed by their station. "Most Virtuous and Infallible" is the prefix for the First Throne membership, followed, again, by their station name, without the "Prince" suffix as outlined above.

So, proper form of address within the order would be "I call Most Highly Esteemed Virtuous Prince to the lectern" for a Second Throne, 5th Station member, or "I yield the floor to you, Most Virtuous and Infallible Ophan" for a First Throne, 7th Station member.

In the chart below, the numbers in parenthesis refer to the maximum number of members that may hold a station. No limit in the Third Throne, of course, but to ascend higher, you have to wait your turn or, you know, duel. 1E druid style, yo! ;-)

Third Throne
Second Throne
Authority (54)
Virtue (45)
Dominion (36)
First Throne
Ophan (27)
Cherubim (18)
Seraph (9)


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Agnelcow nailed it. And is correct that it only gets more ridiculous from there. There are 9 "Stations" divided equally among 3 "Thrones," with the 9th station of the First Throne having only 9 members that make up a sort of high council.

"Esoterics" is a good outsider's name for them. "Most Worthy Esoterics" if they're not into the whole brevity thing.

I can list the base names of each station from my notes when I get home if there's interest.


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Calling my work "stupid" and a "stain" isn't exactly asking nicely, but in the spirit of working alongside folks like BanditofLV who respect the adventure's content and appreciate the encounters but just can't bear to bring it to their home tables, I've created a thread specifically for alternative "overlays" to re-skin Rasputin Must Die! into more acceptable fantasy content without drastically restructuring the adventure or the mechanics of the encounters--just the flavor. I provided a sort of fill-in-the-blank form for other comunity users who want to take part and threw in an example of my own using it--one that takes PCs to the World of Greyhawk!

Enjoy the thread: Inspiring Alternative Overlays for Rasputin Must Die!


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Alternative Location: Instead of Earth, RMD takes place on Oerth in the Land of Black Ice.*

Alternate Antagonist: Instead of Rasputin, Iuz the Old is Baba Yaga’s grandson, the progeny of the demon lord Graz'zt and Baba Yaga’s daughter Iggwilv, and he is now in league with Elvanna.

Background Considerations: Iuz (yeah, I went there!) holds the exact ambitions and background story as Rasputin—drain his mother’s mythic power to claim her mantle for himself. To account for his demigod status, for the sake of this adventure assume that Iuz’s power is itself currently invested in the ceremony of the World Engine and maintaining its hidden off-world presence, weakening him to the point that Rasputin’s statblock makes for a believable stand-in. In this adventure, Iuz has fortified himself in a prison camp in the barrens of the Land of Black Ice, where he has used the prisoners and his own troops to excavate the ruins of the monastery that serve as Baba Yaga’s stepping stone into the world of Oerth.

Part 1—Baba Yaga’s Hut:
The Hut and its environs do not change. Clues presented by inhabitants point toward “a land of ashen ice,” “a son older than his mother,” and “a road of bone.”

Part 2—The Village of Akuvskaya:
Troop Alternative1: The troops statblock, instead of rifle-wielding soldiers, is instead plague-ridden robed cultists armed with bone shard-spewing bone wands (use same stats as rifle attack).

Troop Alternative2: The troops statblock, instead of rifle-wielding soldiers, is instead black-blooded orc warriors armed with crossbows, short bows, and javelins (use same stats as rifle attack).

Grenades, Mines, Mortars & Flamethrowers: These attacks are instead represented by explosive skulls that are thrown, launched, or planted, and potions of fire breath.

Anytime there’s a gun, replace it with a bone wand with 1d6 charges or a special crossbow that uses the stats of the adventure’s rifles.

Tsar Tank Alternative: Instead of a massive tricycle tank stuck in the mud, this encounter location is a crumbling stone tower that looms over the burned village.

Other changes: The cultists could act more suicidal, and after several volleys of bone shards and tossing some explosive skulls (as per greandes), they rush in a disgusting mob of rusty daggers and blood-red robes.

Part 3: The Called-Down Kingdom
List Any Changes to Basic Assumptions: This location is still a prison camp built around the ruins of a monastery that once acted as Baba Yaga’s beacon into the world of Oerth. The camp has been overrun with Iuz’s cultists and orc guards. Due to its connection with Baba Yaga’s power, it acts as Iuz’s ceremonial seat as he attempts to usurp her First World dominion.

Tank Alternative: The animate tanks are lumbering golems made of bone.

Instead of Barbed Wire, Wooden Barracks, and Modern Guard Towers, those elements are replaced with fields of bone and stacks of skulls (some exploding like mines) that have arcs of arcane energy flaring between them. The barracks and watch stations are now stone fortifications, and stone towers..

Instead of modern technology, the World Anchors appear as a stone pillars inset with throbbing, nine-faceted gemstones, 5-feet in diameter, in the form of those found in Zagig’s godtrap, which once imprisoned Iuz, and whose arcane model he now emulates. The numbers and skill checks to control them do not change, nor does their ultimate operation of Viktor’s expertise in working them.

The Viktor Quest: Though the Viktor quest can remain unchanged, now instead of a technological genius capable of working the World Anchors, he’s a fallen cultist with an amazing knack for magical artifact wherewithal.

Anastasia & Alexie: Instead of the resurrected heirs to the Russian Empire, these children are Iggwilv’s neice and nephew, and their names are now Astoria and Pretori, though Pretori remains a disguised gornych, and Astoria, through her lineage, remains the heir to the throne of Irrisen due to her mother’s relation.

The Tsarina’s Ghost: Her relationship to the children (above) and revelations about them need not change, and though she is Iggwilv’s sister, she was never an evil witch queen, her new name is Asha.

Part 4—Akuvskaya Monastery
The World Engine is not modern technology, and instead Iuz is attempting to drain Baba Yaga’s power and First World mantle through his own replica of Zagig’s godtrap, and the appearance of the machinery is instead a large chamber in the off-world monastery with three concentric brass cages shaped vaguely like matroyska dolls surrounding a skull-shaped brass magical apparatus.

Alternative Appearances and Powers of Appendix Magic Items: The dimensional grenade becomes a dimensional skull bomb, the frontovik's gasmask becomes a skull-visaged fogwarding mask, the gas-trap cylinder becomes a gas-trap gem, the maxim of suppressive fire becomes a wheeled boneshard ballista, and the spectral searchlight takes the form of specially-lit and enchanted fire braziers with special orbiting lenses that, once set in motion around the magical braziers, provide the same illumination and effects as the listed magic item.

*(All proper names and locations copyright Wizards of the Coast. Also note I'm not here to discuss the finer points of Greyhawk canon or argue about the statblock representation of a de-powered Iuz. Just roll with it, folks.)


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I understand that despite the outpouring of enthusiasm and tremendously positive reaction for Rasputin Must Die!, an adventure set in 1918 Russia on real-world Earth with blazing guns and trench warfare just isn’t quite up everyone’s universal alley. And that’s perfectly OK. So, I’ve created this thread for just those folks, to allow myself and the community some input to alternate story ideas to overlay the adventure so those gamers can enjoy it as well, without having to resort to a wholesale replacement of the entire adventure. I’m going to provide a form here for everyone to follow if you want, and if you feel like contributing your alternate ideas, please fill it out so others might reference it, and everyone feel free to discuss.

Note, if you’re a fan of Rasputin Must Die! who cries “blasphemy” at the very idea of shedding it of its Earth elements (and that is something I wholeheartedly appreciate), this isn’t the thread to rally to its defense. Let’s recognize that there are people in our gaming community that might *love* it, but don’t think their players will, or even those who *don’t* really like it but recognize the structure and core of the adventure has worthwhile, intriguing challenges that merit salvaging once the offending Earth elements are removed. Let’s respect that here, please.


Alternative Location: Instead of Earth, RMD takes place on ___________________ in _____________________.

Alternate Antagonist: Instead of Rasputin, __________________ is Baba Yaga’s _____________________, in league with Elvanna.

Background Considerations:

Part 1—Baba Yaga’s Hut:
(While the hut likely does not need to change, list any necessary clues or encounter changes here):

Part 2—The Village of Akuvskaya:
Troop Alternative: The troops statblock, instead of rifle-wielding soldiers, is instead ______________________________________________ armed with ___________________________________.

Grenades, Mines, Mortars & Flamethrowers: These attacks are instead represented by _____________________, _____________________, _____________________, and _____________________.

Anytime there’s a gun, replace it with __________________________________________.

Statblock Changes as a result? _____________________________________________________________.

Tsar Tank Alternative: Instead of a massive tricycle tank stuck in the mud, this encounter location is _______________________________________________________________.

Other changes: _______________________________________________________________.

Part 3: The Called-Down Kingdom
List Any Changes to Basic Assumptions: IF this is no longer a prison camp, what is it? Are the ruins still those of a monastery? If not, what is it? Why is this location important to Baba Yaga, and why is the antagonist here?

Tank Alternative: The animate tanks are __________________________________________.

Instead of Barbed Wire, Wooden Barracks, and Modern Guard Towers, those elements are replaced with _____________________, _____________________, and _____________________.

Instead of modern technology, the World Anchors appear as __________________________________________ that _____________________, and the electric fences appear/act as _____________________.

The Viktor Quest: Though the Viktor quest can remain unchanged, now instead of a technological genius capable of working the World Anchors, he’s a _______________________________________________________________ and the PCs need him to __________________________________________.

Anastasia & Alexie: Instead of the resurrected heirs to the Russian Empire, these children are _____________________ and _____________________, and their names are now _____________________ and _____________________, and one is possibly the heir to the throne of Irrisen because __________________________________________.

The Tsarina’s Ghost: Her relationship to the children (above) and revelations about them need not change, but her new name is _____________________.

Part 4—Akuvskaya Monastery:
The World Engine is not modern technology, and instead the main antagonist _____________________is attempting to drain Baba Yaga’s power through _____________________ and _____________________, and the appearance of the machinery is replaced by _______________________________________________________________.

Alternative Appearances and Powers of Appendix Magic Items: ___________________________________________________________________________ _________.


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Sean Mahoney wrote:

There is little to no RP that is needed... in my mind that is a the easiest way for an adventure to be marked as not good in my book. No RP AND in the real world... yeah, not much chance this will ever see the light in a game I am in.

The good news is that this adventure has almost no RP...

Sean, you are, of course, welcome to whatever opinion of Rasputin Must Die! you wish, and I'll leave it to others to defend whether or not my work is a "stain" on the game, but I'm afraid I can't let you get away with telling potential readers that my adventure contains no roleplaying encounters, or "no RP" or "precious little RP." Particularly when the adventure can't be completed without some serious roleplaying and investigation. You're a smart guy, but with such emphatic statements as these, I suspect you may not have read the same adventure I wrote.

Since this breakdown will obviously contain spoilers, see you behind the jump:


Rasputin Must Die! was designed with a very careful mix of important roleplaying encounters to augment and offset the horrors of war and contribute to a rich and intriguing storyline, encounters that include but are not limited to:

1. The Domovoi Gulag: the adventure's *very first encounter* involves a room of imprisoned domovoi who, when interacted with, provide clues to the PCs' whereabouts, answer questions, and give advance warnings to the hut's other inhabitants.

2. Little Otik: Baba Yaga's "first son" is more than willing to engage PCs in conversation, and hungry though he may be, the text explains how he can be tempted/distracted with food in exchange for information, which he manages to let slip anyway while hungrily licking his chops.

Remember, just because a creature is willing to fight or eventually attack does not disqualify it as a roleplaying encounter.

3. The Crucified Doll: Vasilisa's doll, if rescued from her sad state, is a willing and able companion that is informative, "friendly, loyal, and helpful."

4. The Coffin Man: The hut's overseer, the thanadaemon known as the Coffin Man, engages in a nearly-completely roleplaying encounter, and he's one of the most powerful villains in the book. He'll even let you off, easy, and out if you can beat him at cards, and you get a whole PAGE of diplomatic interaction with him.

At this point, the PCs haven't even left the hut, and 4 of 7 encounter areas (the loft is empty) provide ample roleplay opportunities.

5. The Burning Corpses: Here, the PCs engage AT LENGTH with the primary antagonist of the adventure--Rasputin himself--in what is ONE of THREE roleplaying encounters they will have with the Mad Monk before the final encounter. How many other adventures allow this sort of escalating interplay and in-depth exchanges between PCs and the main villain?

6. Interrogating Soldiers: Note that the individual statblock for soldiers was technically unnecessary with the inclusion of the troop statblock, but I *insisted* developers keep this in for when PCs have a chance to interact one-on-one with individual soldiers throughout the adventure. And though there will always be survivors and chances to interact with these men at the GM's discretion, I'm still only counting it as one encounter. Note page 28 has a quarter-page statblock detailing these ongoing roleplaying interactions and opportunities with soldiers.

7. Monastic Cemetery: Not only is the tombstone fairy present as a source of information, a sideline ally, and intriguing roleplaying opportunity, but Polina is also *vitally important* to clues regarding Viktor, and without *roleplaying* with her, you can't complete the adventure. Your PCs can engage in "one big fight" after another until there's not a single soldier left, but without roleplaying, they'll *still lose*, since they can't even get to Rasputin without engaging in roleplayed encounters.

8. Prison Barracks: The nosferatu-bled soldier Dmitri survives among the ruins to provide PCs with information and vital clues to the Brothers Three, Anastasia, Rasputin, Viktor, and that monastery the PCs can't get to unless they roleplay to figure out what's going on.

9. Rusalka Spring: PCs encounter Rasputin's jilted and bloodthirsty lover who is more than willing to engage them in conversation, spill Rasputin's secrets if properly coerced, and provide information if it can gain her some revenge against Rasputin's new fling (see #16).

10. Anastasia & Alexie: Among the ruins, PCs eventually find an amnesiac Anastasia, who may very well be the savior of Irrisen, and her overly-protective brother Alexie. You get a page and a half of detailed interactions regarding the two, their actions, the role she ultimately plays, and the mystery of exactly what's up with her little brother and the continuing part he plays in Rasputin's schemes.

11. Rasputin Again: Encounter TWO of THREE roleplaying encounters with the main protagonist, Rasputin, as he escalates his verbal war and taunts with the PCs and gives a dire warning about their meddling further in his affairs.

12. Seance Chamber: The PCs can fight to free the ghost of the Tsarina, and the presence or absence of Anastasia and/or Alexie make this a rich and evocative roleplaying encounter with a variety of possible outcomes, including the PCs learning the true nature of Anastasia and the possibility that she may be Baba Yaga's heir, and the real identity of sneaky little Alexie.

13. Cellarium: Another possible trigger (along with the tsarina) for the culmination of Alexie's schemes and the ultimate unraveling of his infiltration into the party, when his personality overcomes his instructions and perpetuated ruse when PCs start plundering that which doesn't belong to them.

14. Rasputin yet AGAIN: The THIRD of THREE roleplaying encounters with Rasputin, where the Mad Monk verbally engages PCs, acts as a possible third trigger for Alexie's unraveling scheme, and a continuation of his mocking engagement that reveals subtle clues to the ultimate importance of Anastasia to the game afoot.

15. Viktor Miloslav: The PCs simply *cannot* complete the adventure without reaching Rasputin's extra-dimensional lair, and they can't do *that* without rescuing the corpse (and later soul) of Viktor Miloslav, resurrecting him (perhaps after convincing the tombstone fairy to help through more roleplaying), convincing him to share the secrets of the World Anchors, or extracting enough information from him to do it themselves before he commits suicide. The entire *crux* of the adventure hinges on this roleplaying encounter.

16. Serafina: Rasputin's new lover that has his rusalka girlfriend all in a tissy engages the PCs in a roleplaying capacity, appearing in disguise as Baba Yaga herself while attempting to trick them and lead the party from the monastery to thwart their plans and buy Rasputin more time to drain his mother's power. Given her magic and Bluff skills, PCs are going to have a hard time not being fooled by her ruse, and will have to react accordingly.

Of approximately 44 unique encounter areas in Rasputin Must Die, 16 have significant roleplaying elements. That's OVER A THIRD of the book's unique encounters, and while the chapter contains some deep tactical and obvious combat elements, to dismiss it as "one big fight" is just not factual. Again, Sean, I respect your opinion of the adventure's content and setting and whether or not it has a place in your game. I honestly expected a lot more of that flack than the adventure ultimately received. And maybe you expect roleplaying encounters to be more scripted, rather than crafted as informative roleplaying guides for GMs with widely disparate groups and play-styles to adapt for their home games, so if that's the case I see how you might gloss over these opportunities as void of roleplaying opportunities. But it just isn't the case that there's "almost no RP" in the adventure, and I don't want any potential readers that see your post to get the wrong idea of the true nature of what Rasputin Must Die! offers as an adventure.


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Mary Yamato wrote:
And looking ahead, #6 requires the PCs to be so bloody unconcerned that they will let strangers get their hands on the Shards, in a public venue where anyone could try to teleport in and snatch them--and then that works out terribly. It's not a good idea to fiat that the PCs are stupid and then punish them for stupidity.

Your post has lots of solid points, but I'm afraid I have to take exception to some of your assumptions regarding the opening events of Book 6, and maybe in doing so I can give you a more positive outlook on those upcoming sequences, because I think you're working on a couple of key misconceptions. Simply put, the events of the first chapter *can't* be triggered by any acts of stupidity on the part of the PCs or anyone else. Maybe you just haven't read the passages fully, but hopefully this post will help once you do.

The "strangers" you reference are among the most powerful and famous NPCs of the character's generation, and all allies. This ceremony gives PCs a chance to not only rub elbows with some of Golarion's most revered spellcasters, scholars, and leaders, but have themselves and their deeds recognized by those who are now their peers. They may be only recently convened, but these NPCs should hardly be unknown to the PCs, and their vignettes should give you the materials you need to impart some familiarity--and trust--of these NPCs to your players (there's a whole section that details these interactions and their purpose over the course of days, turning strangers into friends).

If presented as "OK now you just hand the shards over to a bunch nobodies you've ever heard of before," then you are doing yourself and your players a disservice. This ceremony and meeting is the literary equivalent of the Council of Elrond...and even a relatively-naive Frodo knew he was in the presence of some of Middle Earth's greatest movers and shakers, and this should be played similarly (and the PCs are hardly naive). It isn't that the PCs are required "to be so bloody unconcerned." It is quite the opposite: the big guns have been called in to do whatever the PCs request of them, and they hold the PCs in equal stead for the deeds they have accomplished. They are working *with* and *for* the PCs, and that's how it should be played.

The assumption also precludes that the PCs have any say in the matter--which they most certainly do. But the adventure also assumes the PCs take this council as the most reasonable course of action. Your home game mileage may vary.

Your second point regarding the public venue is a little short-sighted by presuming that "just anyone" could teleport in and snatch away the shards in the guarded, high-alert presence of such powerhouses as Aram Zey (wizard 11), Bevaluu Zimantiu (cleric 10), Jyronn Imikar (cleric 13), Koriah Azmeren (ranger 11), Leis Nivlandis (wizard 11), Sabriyya Kalmeralm (rogue 12) and Toth Bhreachr (wizard 15, and in control of every golem in the city), not to mention the fully-rested-and-healed PCs themselves (all 15th-level), who are likewise expected to take all proper precautions, likely including some liberal applications of forbiddance and other warding magics. I can hardly think of a more secure space on Golarion on that day, even out in public, but it is a fantastic opportunity for high tension and drama.

And I suppose this is ultimately why I write: the NPCs are there to help the PCs, because without them, the PCs simply don't have the power capable of reassembling the Sihedron on their own, and they risk wiping out the spellcasting ability of any participating party members who are spellcasters (see page 11 for details on the magical expenditure and drain that takes place for PCs participating in the reforging ceremony).

PCs are *much* better off taking the assistance. In fact, I'd say they were "stupid" to do otherwise, because if PCs insist on doing it themselves, they'll be useless for the defense of the city, which is *exactly* why these powerful spellcasters have offered their services: to keep the PCs in action in case things go wrong..

And let's not forget that *none* of the actions you describe (handing over the shards, accepting aid from "strangers," or the presumed "fiat" employed to trigger these actions) are in any way responsible for the cataclysm that follows in the wake of the shards' reforging. In other words, the "punishment" you presume for the PCs' "stupidity" isn't a direct result of the strangers' aid or these people getting their hands on the shards. If the shards are reforged, these events happen *regardless* of whether the PCs recruit their own spellcasters to perform the ceremony in super-secret or the suggested course of action takes place. And there's the rub and the core of the rebuttal. You're assigning false presumptions to the PCs' actions and false consequences of those actions when the events of the adventure are triggered.

In closing, PCs trusting famous, powerful, allied NPCs who welcome them as peers and offer their assistance should hardly be cast as "stupid," and nor are the PCs "punished" for any of these presumptions--the same event occurs whether the PCs do the deed themselves or have their allies do it for them, and I think a more careful reading will give you the key to successfully running this portion of the adventure as it is intended without anyone feeling either stupid or punished.


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Hey LB! Here are a few pointers for you.

The Drain Aperture

Keep in mind that this mechanism was never meant as an entrance--its a complicated drain mechanism for a big public pool, which is why it acts as a sort of trap. So, without finding and flipping the switch, you have to make the Disable Device check to open it, but it still snaps shut each round as a sort of emergency shut-off mechanism as a nature of what it truly is--which may come as a surprise to PCs who thing they've figured it out when they think they've disarmed it. And that's the point. But, if you want to open it and make it stay open, just have them make another DC 25 Disable device check to do that. No big deal.

The Observatory

I don't have much advice for PCs that just run around indiscriminately smashing things without properly investigating them first. But don't discount the effects of the call lightning and earthquake spells on 6th-level PCs (those are 3rd and 8th-level spells, respectively!). Look them up, and apply them liberally if they don't get the point, which is what the module suggests anyway. Maybe they'll take a powerful artifact seriously when a couple of them get fried to blackened husks and crushed by a rocky pile of ceiling debris. I only mean a *little* snark there, but seriously, I don't think your PCs are that thick. That palce is the real deal, and a serious threat if not handled gingerly.

Sandbox Play

As for sandbox play, the world is your oyster: play it naturally, and react to PC action appropriately. This is where the random encounter chart comes in handy. If you feel you need to lead PCs to where you want them, like the excavation site, then maybe let the PCs spot a work team heading that way in the distance, and entice them to follow ("it looks like they're carrying big chests..." they're full of tools, but they'll assume they're carrying treasure, of course). Or, if they're intent on exploring the natatorium, tempt them away with the distant sounds of hammers and picks working on the bedrock. But maybe they run into another encounter area on the way there. The island isn't *that* big--it is basically several big city blocks--so little tricks and tools like that can help you get PCs where you want them.

When the adventure came out, we released a little "web extra" called "Ten Interesting Ruins" that fills in some of the blanks on the island. I think you'll enjoy them *and* find them useful, so I hunted them down and have republished them below!

Ten Interesting Ruins

Little of Nal-Kashel remains above water, but even then chances for exploration are vast, and the events transpiring here are but a small part of the intricacies that could be taking place among the white-shale ruins. Below are ten sites to spark the GM's imagination should players delve deeper into the decaying spires of old Azlant.

The Russet Library: The crumbling edifice of this domed structure is completely choked with overgrowth. A violent tribe of three dozen vegepygmies aggressively guard the contents within, believing all outsiders seek control of the mold colonies the rotting books harbor.

Blood Fruit: This building is completely overgrown with thick vines dangling large, blood red fruit. If approached within 60 feet, the putrescent globes split, disgorging stirges that immediately swarm trespassers. Slain stirges are regrown unless the fruit is destroyed.

Research Facility: Narrow, crumbling passages and tangled iron bars show this building housed a vast collection of cages. A clutch of chokers lurk in the cramped shadows, baiting seabirds and snatching them from the air as they near.

The Gibbering Cylinder: A single intact chamber remains in this crumbled hall. Within, a cracked glass cylinder etched with strange glyphs contains a babbling allip. The creature seems contained, but it’s disturbing sound leaks from the vessel. Small orbiting baubles occasionally tap the glass threateningly.

The Copper Beast: Enormous copper beams and green rotting plates jut upwards from the upside-down remnants of some massive, lobster-shaped Azlanti war machine. Green foliage hides enormous black egg cases unearthed with the odd creation. They burst, and mutated centipede swarms attack.

Pauper's Burial: A white marble mausoleum, cracked apart on two sides so the ceiling slumps dangerously, holds canopic jars bearing brass plaques in ancient Azlanti. If disturbed, ochre jellies erupt from the tombs to attack the defilers.

The Showering Tower: An orbiting tower passes overhead, dropping 1d3 gp in ancient Azlanti coins per round. The tower holds approximately 2,000 gp, but is home to a massive wasp nest (3 swarms) and is difficult to navigate inside due to the tumbling motion, nest and heavy debris.

The Sinkhole: The dull rhythmic clack of driftwood, debris and surf funnels upwards through the mouth of this small sinkhole choked with a collapsed building. Giant crabs clamber out from the depression, attacking ravenously.

The Lectern Hall: Twelve copper colored podiums face inward in a acre-wide stone circle. Inlaid into the center of the circle is a now-broken spiral pattern made from black pearl. Each podium has strange, geometric patterns engraved into its ancient facade, now various glyphs of warding.

Fearful Flora: A withered giant flytrap known to locals as Brinetooth, crusted in salt from the ocean mist, stalks prey in an overgrown garden littered with statues behind a ruined manor house. The beast hides among the undergrowth waiting for the next victim.


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Thank you for providing those links for everyone, Mark--at my first glance I thought Charles' post was from last week--not last week plus a year! Hahaha. My first necro'd thread! Should have started a fresh one, though--this project deserves a look by anyone interested in a low-magic horror setting.

I'll say this, too. The French are onto something with their layout aesthetics. I had thought Cadwallon and Confrontation were the most beautiful RPGs ever produced, but this one is giving the old Rackham line a run for that title as far as I'm concerned.


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Here you go! Dungeon Crawler Miniatures Town Folk. You can also base some of the Scene Setters like these guys here.


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Actually, I do believe reference to Rasputin Must Die! already made it to TV Tropes. Someone must have been on top of things. =-)

Yorick--I do have some excised material I'll be sharing on the boards before too long, but a full statblock for that character is not among the material. While she's incredibly important to the plot and resolution, we just didn't feel game mechanics added anything game-worthy to her presentation, and saved the space that'd have taken up on exotic beasties and encounters. My advice would be to level-up the princess NPC statblock from the NPC Codex, which is a pretty good fit even if a level short.


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Yeah--that's what I'm sayin'. You get some self-righteous asshat on board that thinks a reference isn't appropriate or to their personal liking or offends their scholastic posturing, and you get in an editing war. And you have to *talk* about it...and *discuss* things...and, well...


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And don't forget the aboleth-engineered faceless stalkers!


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Charlie Bell wrote:
Anastasia is today's featured article on Wikipedia!

Does it mentioned any of the historical truths revealed in Rasputin Must Die? Because it *should.* =-)


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Joseph Davis wrote:
Didn't think about Gillmen, and I like the Aboleth idea too. What about something like a "mook" creature, something to fill an orc/goblin/kobold role?

Skum, chuuls, cloakers, and chokers, oh my!


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Sauce987654321 wrote:
A single Russian soldier is CR6? Seems very high. The stats shown here are for the average troop of Russian riflemen.

Sauce, please read my post just two above yours for an explanation of the design theories and real-world justifications for both the single soldier's CR as well as that post and others for explanations on the abstract concept of the troop.

The adventure provides a challenging single-soldier statblock for the GM's use in the event you need to interrogate a soldier or have a face-to-face encounter with a foe challenging in small groups. It is also there for those GMs who aren't comfortable with the abstraction of the troop subtype and want to break things down the old fashion way.

The troop subtype is just that--an abstraction--as this whole thread explains. It should not stand to follow that just because we provided a statblock for an elite, hardened veteran of the trenches that *every. single. soldier.* that makes up the 12-30 body troop is represented by that statblock. Again: Abstraction.

BUT, for those hung up on the abstraction matching the statblock, keep in mind that 16 CR 5 soldiers as presented are a CR 13 challenge, and 12 soldiers a CR 12 challenge--not that far off from the presented CR 11 troop statblock. Just a HELL of a lot more dice rolling! And since the troop subtype *does* say that the abstract concept represents anywhere from 12 to 30 troops, you *could* imagine it that way, or, alternatively,you could reduce the individual soldiers to CR 3 soldiers (a perhaps more realistic 4th-level fighter), where 16 of them would make an equivalent CR 11 threat, and your numbers would all line up nice and tidy.

*If* it's worth that much to you to line up the individual with the abstraction. =-)


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Folks, I want to come in here and interject a little bit before this otherwise very handy GM Reference thread descends into a very unhelpful and chaotic mess.

Carn and others, let's *please* leave it at this within this thread. This is a GM Reference thread, and it would be disappointing for GMs seeking advice in this forum to find 4 pages of back-and-forth "Ermahgerd TPK" and "Nuh-uh!" on this topic, particularly when there was another thread created to address it. Let's move the debate back to where it started.

So, Carn and others concerned with the possibility of TPK, let it suffice that those concerns and the mathematical breakdowns have been noted and are appreciated, and you have successfully provided fair warning to GMs reading this thread that the initial encounter outside the hut can be sufficiently deadly to unprepared PCs. You have established that viewpoint and it is well-noted. Thank you.

Everyone else, thank you for your responses and contributions. And I think *everyone* is right here--Carn included. The numbers can unleash a staggering array of damage on unprepared PCs, but as the writer I think (an opinion obviously shared by many here) that is is reasonable to assume PCs at 13th level will take some precautions as they exit the hut, particularly after the Coffin Man's warnings, either through divinations, scouting, or, you know, common 2nd level spells that *totally* circumvent the troop's Perception and spoil the ambush, like invisibility.

If the 2 pages of debate here haven't satisfied you, PLEASE RETURN the conversation to the thread created to address it, found HERE. Debate away. Theorycraft away. But please do it there, not here. Again, I'm not trying to squelch debate, but I don't want GMs seeking advice on this title to be driven away by pages of vitriol on a single subject when it is addressed more singularly and handily in another thread dedicated to the topic. Thank you.


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Rycaut wrote:
I'll probably use Miracle to at least once make the PC's think they have defeated him but give him an escape (in the book they talk about him having used Miracle in the past to create a simulacrum of himself that was killed and buried in his place).

In the original draft, the

projected image of Rasputin in the Abbott House (Area F1) was actually another buffed-out simulacrum sent to foll the PCs into thinking they'd killed Rasputin early,
, so I'd say that's a fine idea to bring to the table. =-)
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